In the face of pop-country, Ashton Shepherd remains stalwart in her traditional-leanings, blazing her own path on This Is America. With 10 perfectly thoughtful tracks, the album is one of the finest solo female releases in recent years, and the singer-songwriter couldn't be happier. One of the standout tunes is her current single "Seventeen Again," a mature perspective on what it means to be grown.
"I’m 27. I have two children, and I’ve been married since I was 18 years old. I find myself thinking, ‘who made these rules I live by?’" Shepherd shares in an exclusive interview with NashvilleGab, noting one of the poignant lyrics ["Guess I'm stressed in life, says the bags under my eyes"].
"I’m excited to share this [story] with my fans. I really do write from a place I am in life and it transpires to be where they are, too. That’s what makes it so special," she beams, before taking a few moments to look back at her younger self.
"I still call myself ‘too serious.’ That’s why I wrote that song [‘Seventeen Again’]," she ponders. "I find myself being like, ‘geez, Ashton, let it go. Go have a good time somewhere. Quit being so serious.’ For the fans, they probably don’t realize it. Everything is serious to me, especially when I was little."
She adds, "I knew I wanted to have babies and be married. I knew I wanted to be in country music. There was never any doubt there. At 17, I was fun because reality hadn’t hit me hard enough yet to maybe realize some thing. But I always knew what direction I wanted to take."
The decision to release "Seventeen Again" to radio came after a text conversation with Josh Turner. Shepherd explains, "I sent him and his boys and his wife my album. We were texting each other one day, and he told me that his favorite song on the album was ‘Seventeen Again.’ He told me, ‘I can relate to that so much.’ It just really shocked me for [him] to say that. Then, I thought, ‘maybe it is as relatable as I think it is.’ Sometimes, it’s hard as a writer to know that for sure."
Another album gem is the uptempo toe-tapper "Drinking Cap," a tune that has the singer deciding a night out is in order. "I do get rowdy sometimes," she laughs. "But I’ve gotten to the grown-up phase of knowing when too much is too much. At the same time, I still feel I am so tired somtimes. I’m running my business from home and my own record label and taking care of my children. And there bills to be paid. That all can just get to be too much."
"What I like to do most is maybe me and Rowland go out and ride a dirt road or something like that. It sort of releases the nerves. I’ll get a little silly sometimes," she says. "I actually sang some Spice Girls at karaoke the other night. We sang ‘Wanna Be.’ That was my first being that silly in months. It felt good to do that. In the Biblical sense, I had a few beers but I wasn’t [completely gone]. I’m happy in my life to find that balance."
Of course, part of that balance is taking care of her voice. "I have learned I like to talk, obviously. When my voice feels tired or worn out or crinkly, I learned to talk softer and use what they call your library voice," she describes of the things she does on a daily basis to stay in tip-top vocal health. "I try not to speak with such strength. I’ve realized how much that really saves my voice. I would have never thought that. I always thought ‘don’t sing.'"
"I take my vitamins. I don’t smoke. I try not to drink a lot of alcohol, if I do, before a show. I might take a sip of honey-style whiskey or something to take the edge off to where I’m not stripping my vocals."
Being so traditional, has she ever thought about crossover success? Sure. "I did a few demos that no one’s ever heard," she recounts. "I’m actually thinking of using them in the future for a cool four-song project. We did a couple songs–one of them was the closest crossover-type songs I ever did. It was still country, though. It was a soft-rock style crossover. It had a ‘Time After Time’ [by Cyndi Lauper] kind of sound."
As she's built a rather loyal fan base, she recalls some of her favorite fan gifts through the years: "One of the fans I follow on Twitter sent my son a little nice miniature race car. I’ve always thought that was so great. I’ve gotten some other really nice things. I’m actually wearing a bracelet that came from a fan. She’s a songwriter. She came up to meet me at Dave & Busters."
Grab a copy of This Is America on iTunes now!
Photos courtesy of Ashton Shepherd Facebook
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